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WATCH: John McDonnell demands Labour supports a second referendum in all circumstances

3 min read

Labour should support a second EU referendum in all circumstances, John McDonnell has declared.

In a move which appears to put him at odds with Jeremy Corbyn, the Shadow Chancellor said another vote was the only way to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

His comments to the BBC came on a day of confusion surrounding Labour's position in the wake of a poor performance in the European election.

The party lost eight MEPs and saw its vote share slump to just 14% as the Brexit Party and pro-EU Lib Dems made major gains.

On Monday morning, Mr McDonnell tweeted that Labour had taken a "hit" and added: "We must unite our party & country by taking issue back to people in a public vote."

Sources close to Mr Corbyn insisted that could mean an election or a referendum, after which Mr McDonnell tweeted a clarification.



Going further still in his BBC interview, Mr McDonnell said: "Of course we want a general election, but realistically after last night there aren't many Tory MPs that are going to vote for a general election. It would be like turkeys voting for Christmas. 

"So our best way of doing that, I think, is going back to the people in a referendum and I think that's what our members want.

"So we're saying quite clearly if there can be a deal, great, but it needs to go back to the people, if it's a no-deal then we've got to block it. And the way we're doing that, I think, is by going back to the people.and arguing the case against it because it would be catastrophic for our economy."

Asked if that meant he backed a referendum in all circumstances, Mr McDonnell replied: "I think it is, yeah."



Diane Abbott, another key frontbench ally of Mr Corbyn, said the party needed to "listen to our members and take a clearer line on a public vote".

The comments came amid mounting criticism of Labour's European elections strategy from MPs, and just hours after Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said candidates had been badly let down by the party hierarchy's refusal to explicitly support a second EU referendum.

But Mr Corbyn himself again refused to go that far when giving his own reaction to the election results.

He said: "We had a very clear policy all along that we will call for a general election and a referendum to decide on the future.

"What we will do is consult members through the constituency parties and affiliated trade unions and bring the issue back to conference in September."

Meanwhile, PoliticsHome can reveal that the majority of Scottish Labour's candidates for the next general election have written to their leader Richard Leonard and Mr Corbyn demanding talks after the party was left with no MEPs north of the Border.

A source said: "They are all standing in the marginal seats Labour needs to win if it's to get a majority. They are demanding answers on where we go from here."

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